Understanding the Cannabinoid System
The legalisation of cannabis at state and federal levels in many parts of the world has led to a rise in its recreational and medical consumption. Cannabis and its products – edibles, oils, tinctures, etc. – are now easily accessible to citizens according to the set laws and principles of the particular society.
When ingested, consumers are known to reap numerous benefits from the chemical compounds present in the plant. Asides from the popular psychoactive THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabis plant contains over 113 naturally occurring chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.
These cannabinoids are responsible for the effects of the cannabis plant on humans. When these cannabinoids bind to receptors in the human brain they alter bodily functions such as appetite.
CHS (Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome)
Formerly an unknown ailment, Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome has risen in popularity over the last decade. This rise can be attributed to the legalisation and increase in use of marijuana by individuals worldwide.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome – also known as CHS – is a condition that leads to critical and recurrent bouts of vomiting. This condition, formerly uncommon, is only known to be present in daily long-term marijuana users.
Asides the human brain, the digestive system contains molecules that can actively bind to cannabinoids when ingested. This binding can lead to severe alterations in the digestive system such as changing the amount of time food stays in the digestive tract, hence altering the appetite of the consumer.
Cannabinoids can also affect the oesophageal sphincter – a tight band of muscle which allows food enters the stomach from the throat. This muscle opens and closes to allow this happen. When altered by frequent cannabis consumption, the sphincter can weaken, producing onset symptoms of CHS.
What Causes CHS?
Cannabis is a complex plant made up of equally complex chemical compounds. Only a handful of cannabinoids have been fully understood to date.
The effects of cannabis would normally be the opposite of the symptoms of CHS. The heavy and repeated use of cannabis, however, alters the reaction of certain receptors to its chemical compounds.
CHS makes cannabinoids work in a paradoxical way when ingested, and this can be linked to the frequent use and often abuse of the cannabis plant. When cannabis consumption is a new phenomenon to the body, the brain responds to cannabinoids differently from when cannabinoids are frequent in an individual’s system.
While this observation has been duly noted in some marijuana users, some do not record any symptoms at all despite heavy consumption.
Symptoms of CHS
Although frequent and uncontrolled bouts of vomiting are the trademark symptom of CHS, health care operators have divided the disease into three phases marked by separate symptoms.
These stages are:
1. Prodromal Phase
This is an onset stage. This stage is marked by early morning nausea, abdominal pain, and an irrational fear of vomiting, although this fear of vomiting is not present in every individual. In this stage, eating habits and other lifestyle functions are still basically normal. This stage can last anywhere between months to years.
2. Hyperemesis Phase
Here, the symptoms are much stronger. They include:
- Constant nausea
- Uncontrolled episodes of vomiting
- Stomach cramps (Gastrointestinal Discomfort)
- Weight loss (Due to decreased food intake)
- Dehydration (Due to fluid loss)
During this stage, the individual suffers from frequent and uncontrollable bouts of vomiting coupled with nausea. Many individuals are forced to seek medical help at this stage as they can’t contain their suffering any longer.
Many individuals experience temporary relief when hot baths or showers are taken. This is due to the fact that heat activates hypothalamus – a part of the brain that regulates body temperature as well as nausea.
3. Recovery Phase – This phase occurs after individuals halt all forms of cannabis consumption. After consumption is curtailed, bodily functions begin to return to normal. This return to normalcy could take anywhere from weeks to months.
How can CHS be treated?
The only way to cure CHS is to quit consuming marijuana in any form. To aid the quitting process, many individuals opt to attend rehabilitation centres or seek cognitive therapy.
In some cases, individuals are able to return to cannabis consumption, but in very low dosages. In many cases, however, individuals are never able to consume cannabis again. They develop a permanent intolerance for cannabis.
Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is an awful but avoidable condition. This condition is a wakeup call to marijuana users that moderation is always important. Everyday items such as water, salt, sugar, and even coffee have to be used in moderation, else they upset bodily functions. The same should apply to the use of marijuana.